“No Pivoting, Adjusting, or Shifting Plans For This Beloved Tradition”, Head of School Raynard Kington Announces 31st Head of School Day

On January 21, Head of School Dr. Raynard Kington wrote in an email to the Andover community that next Tuesday, February 1 will be the 2022 Head of School Day (HOSD). Having already been scheduled as a three-day weekend, the additional day of break will grant students and faculty a four-day weekend. According to Kington’s email, it is a day that people can look forward to amidst the conditions of Covid-19.

Traditionally in the past, HOSD is announced the night before in the lobby of Paresky Commons, granting an unexpected rest day for the community. The only exception was last year, when Kington made the announcement virtually through a video three days prior to the HOSD. However, this year also marked another deviation from the tradition as for the first time the announcement was made a week prior to HOSD. The Andover community responded with ambivalence about this unusuality.

According to Silvia Ng ’23, while an early announcement can lower the excitement that students normally feel when receiving the news right before HOSD, it also enables students to plan ahead.

“I’m not too sure about how I feel about the early announcement because finding out about Head of School Day the day before brings the shock and excitement of having a day off when you least expect it. But an early announcement also has its benefits, such as being able to plan ahead. Both early and late announcements have their pros and cons,” wrote Ng in an email to The Phillipian.

Similarly, Manou Georgila, a Teaching Fellow in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science, expressed that the late announcement can both be disappointing and helpful to students. As an instructor, she preferred the early announcement as it allows her to arrange and adjust her teaching plan accordingly.

Georgila said, “I’ve also heard students who appreciated knowing and having some sort of schedule in this time of uncertainty. And I think, not to speak on behalf of the school or the administration there, but I think maybe one incentive [in their pre announcing] was to have something certain. As a teacher, I like knowing ahead of time, so that I can plan my classes for next week better and see what adjustments that we need to make rather than having it be a last minute thing.”

The change of schedule and academic program was to provide students more of a break than last year. Canceling one assignment per class on Head of School Day avoids the issue of students receiving a week’s worth of homework to complete in a smaller time frame, according to Kington.

“[The administration] recognizes that everyone is under stress, provided the evidence that students in particular are showing signs of stress in terms of mental health across the nation, across the world. So we thought that we could do things a little bit differently this year. And we saw this opportunity of adding a day to make a four day weekend, made a lot of sense. [Following our] decision, we thought we probably should do this in advance, so the students will have time to sort of plan and actually if they want to be away, be away. So it was just another manifestation of just the different times we’re living in,” said Kington.

Camila McGinley ’23 appreciated the early announcement that allowed students to make plans for the long weekend.

“I feel like folks are criticizing Dr. Kington too harshly because if he would have done it the night before many people would have complained that they could have gone home or gotten an overnight excuse if they knew. So I think it was thoughtful of him to let people know in advance so that if they could they would be allowed to leave campus” said McGinley.

Kington hopes that by next year, the tradition could return back as a surprise announcement for Head of School Day. Kington plans to signal the day by lowering the Head of School Day flag in front of Samuel Phillips Hall, following the traditions of previous Head of Schools Barbara Landis Chase and John Palfrey who respectively held up a field hockey stick and a squash racquet as their symbol for announcing Head of School Day.

“If next year we’re back to a more ‘normal’ normal, I would hope that we’ll be able to return to this tradition. Although we do have the problem that I don’t play a racket sport. So maybe to come up with a way of signaling in the Commons that the day has arrived, but I’m sure I can pick this up. One plan would be to lower the flag, the Big Head of School Day flag in front of SamPhil. That’s why I got that big flag. I decided that was gonna be my way of signaling, but it’s not as dramatic,” said Kington.